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Why Do Medication Errors Persist?

Posted on December 11, 2023

Criminal charges over medical mistakes are rare, but last year a Tennessee nurse was convicted of negligent homicide after mistakenly giving a patient a deadly dose of a muscle-paralyzing drug rather than a similarly named sedative. A mixture of complacency and distraction caused the error, as well as a flawed system, noted experts.

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported on a similar mistake at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby that nearly killed a patient and left him with permanent brain injury after a pharmacy intern mislabeled an IV bag. Instead of containing an antiviral drug, it contained a muscle paralyzer. This is among a growing number of Pennsylvania instances of medicinal errors. 

According to that report, each year, about 100,000 patients die from preventable medical errors. System failures are at the root of the problem, according to ECRI, an independent nonprofit working to improve the safety, quality, and cost-effectiveness of healthcare. The company’s president suggested that healthcare organizations follow the lead of the aviation industry and scrutinize near-misses as well as mistakes to close safety gaps. To do so, they say, hospitals must encourage staff to report mistakes and near errors without fear or blame.

The agency also asserts that hospitals should put systems in place that minimize mistakes. For example, additional safeguards for high-alert medications, such as the ones mentioned in the article. Programming a computer system to require five letters instead of two or three can help confusion with similarly named medications.

Medical errors can result in severe and even life-threatening consequences. If you or a loved one have experienced flawed care at a Philadelphia hospital, contact the firm that has recovered millions for victims of medical malpracticeTom Duffy is a top medical malpractice attorney in Philadelphia. Contact us today to set a time to meet.